Ginger was a dog I never met. She was a Golden Retriever of about eight years old who was picked up as a stray in a city shelter. Her name was Ginger but she didn’t know it. It was a name given to her by the shelter staff when she was taken off the streets. Her past was lost, never to be known. If she ever had a family to love, they were gone forever. They would never know what became of their “ Sandy” or “Fluffy” or “Missy”. She was obviously a wonderful dog because the shelter workers who handle hundreds of dogs were compelled to call Golden Retriever Rescue to see if we could help her. In the hours that she was at the shelter she was evaluated by the staff veterinarians while we began to work on a plan to see what we could do for her.
Suddenly, Ginger got lethargic and seemed depressed. She was in trouble. She had a tumor on her spleen and the lethargy signified that it had burst. Tragically, this is an all-to-common affliction to retrievers and it is mercilessly lethal.
As this was developing, my wife was on the phone and would periodically give me an update and ask my thoughts on any news. Long periods of silence. A flurry of discussion. Some debate.
“The dog will not survive,” my wife told the president of Golden Rescue. “If the dog doesn’t die on the operating table it will need chemo therapy and will die in a couple of months anyway.” She did not need to be reminded about how our last dog died from a spleen tumor. After surgery and hours of waiting, our dog died anyway. The massive amount of blood vessels in the spleen and the damage from the tumor makes a successful operation highly unlikely. Our dog died after surgery when a blood clot traveled from the operation site to his brain. We left the hospital with broken hearts, no dog and a very expensive bill.
Not ones to put money ahead of a dog’s life, the end result would be the same- the dog was going to die anyway and no one would take care of the bill. The Doctor was asking what to do.
“Put the dog down,” my wife advized.
“It’s too late,” I muttered half to myself. The dog was beyond help.
More requests for opinions came over the phone. More discussion. More waiting. Unknown to me, was that this was all one long phone call. I thought it was a series of calls with periodic updates as they found out information. No! It was happening right before our eyes- again! Some noise leaked out of my wife’s earpiece and I could hear two other people talking along with some background noise. The conference call was chaos! I was working on my computer, while my wife was on the phone. She was talking with the president of Golden Rescue who was on a three-way call with the vet. The vet, in turn, was talking on the speaker-phone in the operating room. Up until now I did not realize that events were happening in real time and that this dog was on the operating table as we deliberated its fate. It was surreal. I was idly working on my computer while my wife’s words were going right into the ear of the surgeon fighting for Ginger’s life.
After an hour on the phone, the words finally came, “she’s gone. The tumor ruptured and she bled out.” It was sad but an inevitable outcome that we expected. Then a deeper sense of loss floated over me. No one will miss this dog. No one will care what happened to this homeless, familyless dog on a cold table in some municipal shelter down the block from some garbage dump in the city. If not for the words on this page, no one would ever know of the sad end that this one stray dog had come to. No one except for three people who fought for the life of dog they’d never meet.